Want something done or a product or service be adopted? Explaining concepts and actions in plain language is a usability heuristic that has stood the test of time. But has the cryptocurrency narrative disrupted language itself along with traditional banking and Fintech?
Money, Money, Money Meets Its Waterloo
The Chips Are Down For Fintech
I enjoyed a must-read article from Graham Rigby of Iota Localisation Services about the challenges of Fintech localization. Graham talks about how Fintech domain expertise is different from ERP financials or vertical banking. He explains how a changing business environment means service providers need to be agile, collaborative, and flexible:
“The way financial products are sold, communicated, and presented in the current market mean that linguists who have spent 20 years translating mortgage terms might not be best equipped to deal with the style and nuance of the text in a money transfer app.”
Indeed, the very notion of a “bank” itself has changed: Deutsche Bank in Berlin is now into Kaffee und Kuchen for the hip and happening people of the Hauptstadt. ImaginBank from Spain is aimed at smombies.
And now, cryptocurrency is upon us, and that requires a new set of domain expertise too, including the language we use about it.
The most successful interactions — those that delight users — focus equally on the intersection of visual, interaction, and language design. — Karen Scipi (Designing a Naturally Conversational User Experience)
Oh No, It’s ONO!
I’ve changed career in the last few months, now offering digital transformation consultancy to established and startup ventures seeking to design the right digital thing the right way and to be ready to go global. I’ve been diving into the cryptocurrency space and grappling with the new ideas, concepts, and a new strange language that comes with it.
This is about much more than the Bitcoin and blockchain buzzwords du jour that the tech media throw about without having an iota what such terms mean or indeed possible uses (blockchain, for example is also the platform behind decentralized social media such as ONO, Sola, Indorse, Ong, and Mithril).
Mental “Block” About Cryptocurrencies?
If you want to explore this decentralised space further, there’s this blog series worth reading from Genson C. Glier on blockchain, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and cryptocurrency.
I also recommend the podcast from Tim Ferriss that covers all you were afraid to ask about, although some of terms and concepts will make your head spin (cheat list: jump to the “Show Notes” on the podcast). Try understanding these terms: Miner, Smart Contract, Daap, Truffle, Geth, Ganache, Hashcash, “Wet” Code, “Dry” Code, ICO, Metamask, and Gas.
Although many people and institutions are rightly cautious about cryptocurrencies, they are a “thing” now and attitudes are shifting from suspicion to curiosity.
Providing a plain language conversation around cryptocurrencies and non-developer facing terms would be a great starting point to increase familiarity and adoption.
Cryptocurrency Comprehension Needed
Generally, cryptocurrencies are for most adopters a form of value storage. However, cryptocurrencies are rapidly becoming a medium of value exchange too (i.e., “digital money”). Bitcoin ATMs are appearing globally, for example. In Ireland, about 120,000 people in Ireland own a cryptocurrency, a 300 per cent increase in the last four years.
And yet, that basic usability heuristic of using plain language to communicate a concept even to experts to enable ease of use and adoption has already gone out the window.
The list of Bitcoin-friendly countries contains some surprises (Estonia is number one), and includes locations where English is very often not a mother tongue (although development tools and coding platforms are in English).
We cannot be dismissive of the significant regulatory and security aspects of cryptocurrencies . But, language as a user experience enabler is worth planning for now if cryptocurrencies are to move to the mainstream beyond those Silicon Valley types and their friends.
It’s likely, of course, that we will also see traditional finance, banking, Fintech, and cryptocurrencies align as major players enter the market adding to the need for more language creativity.
Starting with a simplified terminology glossary that we could all share, learn from, and add to, would be a start.
The majority of people don’t understand English enough to grasp what is being said or written. And this is certainly the case for the topic bitcoin and blockchain. — Henk van Cann (“To translate or not to translate, that is the question…”)
Cryptocurrency Disruption Includes Language
At times, it’s hard to accept that the language professional maxim English Is Just Another Language could apply in a cryptocurrency space that seems to have disrupted the notion of the English language itself. James Joyce might admire this kind of word invention, and of course it’s all a matter of context. But I remain gobsmacked by some terms I come across.
It’s clear that lack of comprehension based on obtuse language and lack of translation is a serious barrier to cryptocurrency adoption when even someone who has worked in digital tech for three decades is struggling.
I need to learn that lingo though, as Dublin seems to be place it’s all happening for those cryptocurrency and blockchain ambitions.
Ah, the irony of that word, block, when it comes to getting your head around cryptocurrencies.
More About Cryptocurrencies?
Ultan O’Broin (@ultan) is a digital transformation consultant working with SaaS implementers and the startup, specialising in conversational UI for the enterprise. With over 20 years of product development and pre-sales design thinking outreach in Silicon Valley and Europe, he has written extensively on enterprise chatbot use cases, technology, design, and importance of personality.
All images and screen captures in this article are by Ultan O’Broin. Copyright or trademark ownership vested in any image is acknowledged, where applicable.
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